Have Camera Will Ride to See the United States
Thursday, July 2nd, 2015
by Doug Dalrymple
Over the last 10 months, Doug Dalrymple took photos of North America’s industrial workers while diligently pedaling across the United States.
His solo journey started in New York. He visited more than 80 factories while covering almost 10,000 miles through 24 states and Canada.
One of Dalrymple’s stops was in Tucson, where he took pictures of workers producing leather goods at Allegiant Brand Leather.
“Arizona was really a good state for me,” Dalrymple said. “Politically, it may have a bad rep, and I was not sure if I’d have fun there, but the people were really respectful and understanding of what I was doing.”
Dalyrmple aspires to collect his best photos of his arduous journey and display them in a photo exhibit in Manhattan with a book release later in his native Brooklyn.
The motivation for his project came from two sources – his upbringing and his extensive bicycling background.
He was exposed to life in a family of industrial workers with his parents working as machine operators in a factory. One of his grandfathers worked in a General Motors factory. His bicycling background includes working as a bike messenger in New York City, where he developed an interest of taking photos of people on the street from an artistic point of view.
“When I stopped working as a bike messenger, I became a production room assistant for a clothing company in Manhattan’s Garment District, and I noticed all of these Chinese immigrants working hard cutting and sewing clothes,” Dalrymple said. “These people work so hard and do not get a lot of fanfare.
“The company they work for gets most of the attention. Every day, I saw them making the stuff we need and not getting any attention for it. That’s when I developed the idea to do portraits of factory workers because these people are very important to our country. We should support products made in the USA and these people should be recognized.”
With his workmanlike bike journey across the southern part of the U.S., Dalrymple knows all about the rigors of hard work behind the scenes. He worked as a dish washer, delivery-truck driver and bartender in New York City.
His time as a bike messenger spurred his interest to tour while riding a bike. He became involved with many aspects of bicycling, including playing bike polo on Sundays at a park in Brooklyn. Dalrymple took a brief break during a tour of factories near San Francisco to fly back to New York in June to serve as an organizer for Red Bull’s Mini Drome event.
“After being on my own and being self-sufficient for the first 253 days of the tour, I needed to work for Red Bull on the event from an economic standpoint,” Dalrymple said. “I needed to make some money and also take a break to reevaluate where I am at with the project.”
He contemplated that if he performs a similar tour again, he will combine the use of a truck with riding a bicycle instead of only pedaling the long stretch of the U.S.
“There are a lot of hindrances with only riding a bike,” Dalrymple said. “The weather plays a factor by being constantly exposed to freezing conditions in the winter. I must take minimal camera equipment, which limits how I can shoot. On my bike I have my sleeping bag, tent, cooking pot and stove, food, clothing, tool kit, first aid kit, shower kit and bottles to carry my water.
“All of that is not super heavy or clumsy. I just believe that with the use of a truck it would help me be more efficient overall transporting what I need. I can also turn back if necessary, if a company nearby communicates to me that I can visit their factory. I can’t do that on a bike if a location three, four or five days behind me asks me to come in. I have no time to go back and forth on a bicycle.”
Conversely, Dalrymple acknowledged traveling only by bicycle allowed him to save money on a journey that took him to the northeast, south, southwest and Pacific coast. With no sponsors or funding, Dalrymple camped at every stop.
Dalrymple, who uses his bike as a means for transportation in New York City, has not owned a vehicle in nine years and does not have a driver’s license.
“I know with owning a truck, the cost of the project would increase by having to buy insurance and filling up the gas tank often,” he said. “But I also know that having a truck means I could have additional camera gear which would enhance my photos. It’s just something I am evaluating right now.”
The daily six-hour rides allowed Dalrymple time to stop to take the photos of the factory workers and to set up his camp site. The opportunity to communicate with the workers, and come to appreciate more what they perform motivated him each day to continue to the next destination.
He observed a variety of workers from a one-man operation making boxer shorts to companies that have more than 250 industrial workers.
“The workers appreciated that I took portraits of who they truly are, as hard workers, making the things we use every day,” Dalrymple said. “From the time I took portraits of people on the streets as a bike messenger in New York City, I have never been into making anything gimmicky.
“I wanted to showcase them as they truly are in the factory. They are the backbone of our society. I wanted to basically show that, ‘Hey, this is John. He makes ceiling fans in Lexington, Ky.’ I support the wave of energy working toward domestic manufacturing. Why not buy quality plates made by the hard-working folks at Fiesta Ware in West Virginia, for example, instead of buying cheap plates that are imported from overseas?”